Movie Posters – A Resurrected Art (1970) 🇺🇸
There isn’t another Underwood standard portable on earth quite like his. After all, how many can say they saved one sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy? The typewriter was on board the battleship Oklahoma, when it went down in the muddy waters of Pearl Harbor in 1941. A few months later, Brennen was one of the men assigned to try and salvage the ship.
by A. Franklin Zenda
Climbing into a divers suit, he entered the hull of the stricken vessel and touched something bulky. It was too dark to see in the murky interior so he gathered the object up in his arms and brought it to the surface on the chance it was something worthwhile. That’s when he discovered he had rescued an Underwood typewriter! The faithful machine has been pecking away ever since, (the Navy gave it to him) and Brennen has a real conversation piece.
But the typewriter isn’t the only furnishings in the Brennen household that makes good fodder for cocktail chatter. Brennen is also a movie poster collector. The walls of his den are covered with the film wares of 30 and 40 years ago. Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, and a dozen other western heroes of the silent screen and early talkies stare down at visitors.
Brennen is one of a small cult of dedicated people who search out and preserve fine examples of the poster art. When an early movie was through in theatre release, the posters and other advertising materials were thrown out. Once in a while these were saved, but generally they were not. So it was left to film buffs to preserve the brightly colored bits of Americana no longer needed to promote movies.
After slightly more than a year of searching, Brennen has amassed many rare examples of the early movie art which he hopes to have reproduced in full color as decor pieces for dens and other decorative uses. His hunt for rare examples had led him to all parts of Southern California – wherever he hears about a new specimen.
A look at his posters reveals a new insight into film history as well as being visually attractive. When Hoot Gibson was on the decline, his photos were always featured in a prominent manner for instance, but Bob Steele whom the studio was grooming for stardom was given better exposure on the poster for “The Utah Trail,” one poster in the Brennen collection.
The trend in modern cowboys can be easily traced with the brilliant plumage of Roy Rogers as compared to the more conservative dress of Ken Maynard or Tom Mix. There are many other differences between the several periods of poster art represented in the Brennen collection as well.
Many of the early sheets were printed with the old lithograph process, but as times changed, so did printing methods. Eventually rotary presses were employed and the posters took on the look of a glossy photograph. “We lost something when the printers became too sophisticated,” Brennen says with a sigh, “the first posters were real works of art and in future generations they will be regarded as such.”
Brennen found in his travels most of the really fine examples of posters are in the hands of private collectors who rarely, if ever, show them to the general public. “They are kept in files or drawers,” the broadcaster explains, “and only the owner or a few close friends can appreciate them.”
To try and bring the poster into the mainstream of modern life, Brennen dedicated himself to the task of finding someone who could reproduce exactly the original posters for a reasonable price. Months of calling on printers and other interested parties resulted, and many dead ends were pursued, but finally, Brennen thinks he has hit upon a solution.
The Tom Brennen household at 11133 Aqua Vista, North Hollywood, has become a cross road for interested collectors and historians who feel as the announcer does about the preservation of early movie posters. Only time will tell if his efforts will be successful, but indications right now indicate he is moving in the right direction.
One thing seems to be in his favor, his determination to succeed. Anyone who could salvage a battered typewriter found on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, restore it and then use it for 30 years without incident, should be able to popularize the hobby of movie poster collecting.
Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Tim McCoy, Roy Rogers and other cowboys of the silver screen should be introduced to a new generation of fans, and Tom Brennen just might be the man to do it.
New poster – Broadcaster Tom Brennen and actor Noble “Kid" Chissell look over a new poster for veteran star, Tom Mix. Brennen hopes to market posters like this in the future and start a resurgence of interest in the poster art of the movies.
Collection: Hollywood Studio Magazine, August 1970